Rudy Giuliani returned on April 25, 2006, from his first, unofficial forays on the presidential campaign trail to accept an award from the heterodox, New York-based conservatives who made him.
“It’s like coming home,” Mr. Giuliani told the members of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
Standing at a podium at Cipriani’s midtown ballroom, Mr. Giuliani waved a green copy of the think tank’s in-house publication, City Journal, and added, “If there was kind of like a charge of plagiarism for political programs, I’d probably be in a lot of trouble because I think we plagiarized most of them, if not all of them, from the pages of the City Journal and from the thinking and analysis of the Manhattan Institute.”
Now, the embattled but implausibly buoyant Mr. Giuliani is still in with a shot at the Republican nomination and the presidency, and the institute is hoping for its apotheosis moment: a chance to export “broken windows” policing, antiwelfare policies and tuition vouchers around the world.
“We’re not into empire-building,” said Lawrence Mone, the president of the Manhattan Institute. “But we are open to expanding our influence into as many different places as we possibly can.”
As they prepare for their 30th anniversary, Mr. Mone and the socially eclectic, fiscally conservative contrarians who have their headquarters in a drab and green-file-cabinet-lined office on Vanderbilt Avenue understand that they have a once-in-a-lifetime vehicle in Mr. Giuliani.
Not only have a uniquely resonant set of events—the attacks of Sept. 11 and their aftermath—conspired to make a short, twice-divorced New Yorker a viable candidate for the Republican nomination, but they have given a national platform to a candidate whose policy dossier is built nearly from scratch on the theories of academics.
“I can’t imagine any other instance or any on the horizon where a think tank has that direct an influence,” said author Tom Wolfe, who, though not a member of the Institute, has acted as its de facto historian. “It would probably do great things for the Manhattan Institute.”
Fred Siegel, a Cooper Union history professor, former editor of the City Journal and the author of The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life, said that besides Bill Clinton, who had his thinking shaped by the centrist ideas of the Democratic Leadership Council, Mr. Giuliani is the first presidential candidate since Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (adherents to the ideas of the progressive New Republic) to represent so faithfully the platform of a local idea factory.
“The Manhattan Institute picks up here [in New York] what the D.L.C. picks up nationally,” said Mr. Siegel. “Giuliani and Clinton come from the idea that liberalism is failing.”
Mr. Siegel—a Democratic urban-renewal specialist with neoconservative tendencies—is characteristic of a group that is hard to pin down ideologically.
“They are called conservative, but they are really not,” said Mr. Wolfe. “They are realistic.”
The institute has a long tradition of intellectual peculiarity.
An odd assortment of pro-Reagan academics, the group was started in 1978 by a former British fighter pilot and with the financial backing of a Wall Street investor who went on to run the C.I.A.. The institute reached a modicum of notoriety in the mid-80’s by commissioning well-written books on urban issues, most notably Charles Murray’s Losing Ground, which was about welfare. They also held lot of talks and conferences, many with open bars, at venues like the Harvard Club.
But the institute really made a name for itself challenging the liberal beliefs that governed New York City as it crumbled around them. Mr. Wolfe first encountered the organization when its members invited him to a 1998 conference about the lessons that could be drawn from his novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, which they saw as a clear-eyed depiction of a degraded city. (Since then, he has become a loyal reader of City Journal and the institute’s most famous fan.)
The institute includes some large personalities.
Mr. Wolfe’s closest associate there, for example, is Myron Magnet, a rotund university professor who wears bushy white mutton chops and capes and carries canes with gold knobs. Mr. Magnet is best known for having written The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties’ Legacy to the Underclass.
And Heather Mac Donald, one of the group’s most prolific members, especially on matters of public order, writes in the autumn edition of City Journal of “a second new population invading Skid Row: homeless advocates.” In her time at the institute, which hired her for her first steady writing job out of graduate school, she has become a nationally known figure on policing.
Back in 1989, when their greatest champion first ran for mayor, the group dismissed him.